Small Wars Journal

Mattis, U.S. Commander Sought to Temper Saudi-Led War in Yemen

Mattis, U.S. Commander Sought to Temper Saudi-Led War in Yemen by Dion Nissenbaum – Wall Street Journal

When the United Arab Emirates began drawing up new plans earlier this year to launch a risky operation to seize Yemen’s most-important port from Iran-aligned fighters, it turned to the U.S. military for help.


The response wasn’t what Emirati leaders were hoping for.


Emirati military officials detailed their plans for Gen. Joseph Votel‘s team at U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, according to people familiar with the talks.


Gen. Votel warned the Emiratis that they would have a hard time seizing the Yemeni port, according to these people. And he told them the U.S. wouldn’t provide them with the minesweepers, drone surveillance and intelligence they wanted for the fight over the port of Hodeidah, which serves as the country’s main gateway for humanitarian aid.


That U.S. pushback in June played a key role in forestalling the Emirati offensive—and helped create vital diplomatic space for a special United Nations envoy on Dec. 13 to broker a breakthrough cease-fire during talks in Sweden. In the midst of alleged truce violations on both sides, U.N. monitors arrived in Yemen in the past week to try to keep the deal in place before a new round of talks planned for January.


The behind-the-scenes role played by Gen. Votel was backed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Together, they have worked to temper Saudi and Emirati operations in Yemen, placing narrow limits on direct military support as they provided strategic advice to the Saudi-led coalition, according to Western and Middle Eastern officials…

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